30 March 2024

Easter Day: Believe it or not

Lieut-Colonel Alan Burns

Lieut-Colonel Alan Burns urges us to see with eyes of faith.

Key text

It is said that seeing is believing. However, just because you see doesn’t mean you believe. People frequently say that if God appeared to them in person, they would be persuaded to believe. I have my doubts about that. What we see with our eyes does not necessarily convey or confirm truth in our hearts. We don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are.

As we study the story of Easter Day in John’s Gospel, we can investigate what eyewitnesses saw and did. John describes the events and then adds a depth of truth and understanding to his description.

‘Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance’ (v1). There was nothing wrong with Mary’s eyesight. Other eyewitnesses corroborated this important visual evidence. What Mary saw resulted in a message being sent to her brain. However, it was incorrect. She concluded: ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him’ (v2).

That first Easter message – delivered to Peter and John – was wrong. Thankfully, they didn’t simply accept it at face value. Instead, they ran to the tomb themselves.

Mary made her way back to the tomb and we find her crying at the entrance. What did she see when she peered inside? God helpfully provided a couple of angels to help her. A conversation followed, which you might think would steer her towards the truth of what really occurred. However, she insisted on holding the view that Jesus’ body has been taken, and she informed the angels accordingly.

Pause and reflect

  • Do you see what you believe?
  • Do you believe what you see?
A close-up photo shows part of a face, focusing on the eye.

John 20:16

She turned towards him and cried out in Aramaic, ‘Rabboni!’ (which means ‘Teacher’).

Read John 20

Mary couldn’t get past her interpretation of what she had seen. How much more did she need to see before the truth dawned on her? Perhaps if God made an appearance!

Jesus came and stood right in front of her and, thinking he was the gardener, she engaged in conversation with him.

This is quite remarkable. From all Mary saw that morning, there was no validation of the resurrection for her. Then she accuses Jesus of stealing and hiding his own body – it’s quite amusing really. Allow me to sum it up: eyes wide open, mind firmly closed.

For Mary, the key to her heart was not her eyesight. All it took was one word: ‘Mary’ (v16). Her next action was to find the disciples and deliver the true and joyous Easter message: ‘I have seen the Lord!’ (v18).

Perhaps not being the fittest of human specimens, Peter was beaten by John as they ran to the tomb. Peter got there in the end and, while John dallied at the door, he barged right in.

We are given a detailed account of what Peter saw in his quest for the truth. It appears he saw more than Mary. When he saw the stone removed from the entrance of the tomb, he, like Mary, could have stopped at a distance. However, he charged on and bounded through the doorway.

Pause and reflect

  • All the investigating in the world may not necessarily lead us to the truth. How much convincing does it take for you to open your heart to the presence of the living Lord Jesus Christ?

We are not given any details of the impact the visit had on Peter. We’re only told that he and John went back to the disciples.

John saw the stone had been removed from the entrance. He stood at the threshold but he didn’t go in. He observed the strips of linen that had been wrapped around Jesus’ body. In that moment he dismissed Mary’s message about the body being stolen and ignored the fact that Peter was inside investigating. John saw and believed.

What incredible depth of faith! John knew that Jesus had risen and was alive – just as he had said. John accepted the truth of Jesus’ resurrection. His heart was open and, unlike Thomas, John did not need to see to believe. What about you?

Pause and reflect

  • Reflect on Paul Baloche’s prayer:

Open the eyes of my heart, Lord,
Open the eyes of my heart.
I want to see you,
I want to see you.
(SASB 270)

Bible study by

A photo of Alan Burns.

Lieut-Colonel Alan Burns

Retired Officer, Highcliffe

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